Anastasia Wolkenstein, originally from Magdeburg in the former East Germany, lives and works in Regensburg in eastern Bavaria.
Her company, Agentur Wolkenstein, which she’s run since 2009, has a roster of artists that may seem short (Anastasia is known to call it a “family”), but it’s one of the leading management agencies and reservation of artists in Germany.
A major development for the agency took place in 2014 when Anastasia started working with pianist Julia Hülsmann. In this interview for International Women’s Day 2022, she tells her own story and that of the agency. She also remembers the best advice she ever got. Interview with Sebastian Scottey
Anastasia Wolkenstein. Photo credit: Peter Hundert London Jazz News:
Germany has such strong structures for youth music. Your love of music probably nurtured and developed naturally in this environment? Anastasia Wolkenstein:
In truth, my love of music was kindled and nurtured from the roots in my parental home and especially by my grandparents. The fact that I later learned the instruments and took an intense interest in all kinds of musical genres goes back to the concerts I attended when I was at elementary school age, and to traveling in car with my grandparents during which we played riddles on the composer.
I strongly believe in introducing children to music from an early age. I don’t just mean in a ‘kid friendly’ way. They need to be naturally and fully integrated early into the adult musical experience and brought to concerts. Music and the listening experience can be taken too seriously, while adults need to regain their childlike curiosity and enthusiasm. So everyone benefits. LJN:
What did you study at university and where? AW:
I studied law at the University of Passau. Some parts really interested me, but it became clear at some point that this was not going to be my mission in life. LJN:
So many people involved in jazz have a story (very often it’s their parents’ record collection). What attracted you to it? AW:
I was 21 when a piano student friend introduced me to the music of Oscar Peterson and Michel Petrucciani. At that time, of course, I was impressed by their virtuosity, but above all I discovered improvisation and found it incredibly exciting. I admired everyone who mastered this art. So, while listening, I became aware of the freedom they had, and all that represented. It’s such a fascinating thing and one that ensures that the listener is intensely engaged by the music. To this day, even though I have listened and continue to listen to all kinds of different music over the years, it is still jazz that excites and enriches me the most. I like the fact that at each jazz concert we witness the creative process of the musicians. No concert is like another, nor like any recording. You are always re-challenged as a listener and invited to engage with the music. It has become what my life is focused on and full of. LJN:
What was your first role in the music industry? AW:
The Agentur Wolkenstein homepage. Screenshot from March 3, 2022. LJN:
And how was your agency born? AW:
Sometimes things happen that you can’t consider mere coincidence: the very day I quit working for the concert organizer, a friend of mine who had a jazz band and who wasn’t unaware of my situation, called me and asked if I would like to handle them. I had no contacts when I started, so I’m really happy with how my agency has grown since then. LJN:
And how did you come to work with Julia Hülsmann? AW:
In 2014, I was at a concert of a piano trio that I represented in Berlin, where Marc Muellbauer was on bass. We had a very nice conversation afterwards during which I told him that I was a big fan of Julia. Three days later she called and asked me if I wanted to work with her.
I probably need to explain how out of control and utterly euphoric I was on the phone when this happened – and why. After listening intensely to all the “oldies” on the piano, I discovered contemporary jazz for myself through one of Julia’s albums when I was still a student. So she was the reason I founded a contemporary jazz agency in the first place, and I didn’t go into pop or indie rock, or any other musical style. And the joy of this beautiful coincidence is that we work well together and continue to do so to this day! LJN:
You are a successful booking agent and artist manager. What personality traits or work habits do you think led to this success? AW:
It is always and above all my enthusiasm for music that inspires me, and which has allowed me to overcome the lean periods of the profession. I want and need to be totally behind the music and artists I represent, and that’s important to me. The artist booking business is all about persistence and not giving up. And I know that I can only guarantee this continuity if I represent musicians that I also like to hear in concert – again and again. Additionally, I have always enjoyed cultivating relationships and investing in maintaining contacts and friendships, simply because I have always been interested in the people I do business with. This is definitely an advantage in networking, as is the desire to communicate in general.
The ability to think in big contexts, to keep a lot of things in mind and to cope with the fact that there are few daily routines in the work, to remain flexible and to remain calm in one way or another. another – I think this all helped me. But the biggest driver has always been the music and the people I work with – because I find that very fulfilling! LJN:
What was the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you? AW:
Over the years, I have received a lot of good feedback that has often made me go back and adjust the way I work, as we do in life. What left a lasting and early impression on me was my grandfather’s mantra. He always said, “Children, use the time you have and don’t waste it.” It may sound a little flippant, but when instilled in you over many years, as it was in my case, you develop an inner need to make the most of your opportunities, to value time and life, and to be less afraid to dive into the heart of the matter, it is the guarantee of an intense and, for me, fulfilled life. LJN:
This is an interview for International Women’s Day. What do you think about it? AW:
I grew up in the GDR, where this day has always been celebrated in style. But it’s not just because I grew up with March 8 that I identify with it much more than with Mother’s Day, for example, even if I’m a mom. I have always considered all people to be equal, so for me there is no doubt that men and women should officially have the same rights. That the course of history has been different is such that it is – all the more important to appreciate the commitment of all women over the past decades and centuries who have moved development forward. equality. That we must all continue this work EVERY day of the year is clear. For me, March 8 is a day to keep the women’s movement in mind, a good reason to bring explicit and focused attention to existing grievances that have yet to be resolved. Really then, it’s a day that I celebrate! LJN:
Are there any female role models in music that inspire you? AW:
All women who are active in the world of music, whatever their role, inspire me. I really enjoy working with musicians, promoters, music journalists and other artist agents and always find the exchange enriching and useful. I would like to mention Julia Hülsmann and Tina Heine as representatives of each of them. But the younger generation of musicians, like Luise Volkmann and Tamara Lukasheva, also inspire me with their courage, their irrepressible strength and their unwillingness to compromise, their clarity, their undisguised emotionality and their authenticity. LJN:
What remains to be rectified in this environment? Make a wish! AW:
Naturally, my wish is that women in jazz become even more visible, on concert platforms, in the media, in universities and conservatories. In any case, it would be useful for publicly funded organizations to focus more of their attention on this point and be agents of change in this transition. I think it worked well in the jury process for this year’s German Jazz Prize, for example. In the discourse of equal rights in jazz, as in all areas of society, I would like to see openness and mutual human benevolence. I don’t see why endurance, fighting spirit and resilience should be prerequisites for women to be taken seriously.
Right now, however, I want peace above all else.